It might seem like an ancient problem, but fifty years ago simple mistakes like stepping on a nail or getting too close to that sick kid down the block might have meant death or a lifelong disfigurement. Diseases like tetanus, polio, rabies, and measles have been virtually wiped out by modern science, and top researchers and scientists continue to solve age-old ailments. Here are four of the most amazing medical advancements in the past fifty years, what we owe to them, and what they might mean for the future.
- Modern Information Technology
When you were a child, chances are that your doctor or dentist’s office had entire rooms set aside for patient files. Those precious medical files contained crucial information about every detail of your patient history, including your allergies, prescribed medications, personal anatomical peculiarities, and previous treatment histories. If those files were lost, mistakenly destroyed, or damaged in a fire or other accident, your doctor or dentist had to start from square one diagnosing your symptoms with nothing more than your explanation of past problems.
Modern technology has changed all of that. In addition to making patient information accessible in an instant, computers help doctors and dentists to store information permanently in data clouds, protecting their ability to treat you effectively in the future. Computers, e-mail, and cloud data storage also make it possible for doctors in foreign countries or remote areas to treat patients more effectively as you travel away from home. If you are visiting family in another state, or another country for that matter, your doctor can simply e-mail or upload information so that your out-of-network doctor has all the information he or she needs to treat your ailment.
Advances in videoconference calling have also made it possible for doctors to treat people who are confined to their own homes. Telemedicine is a new and booming technology, giving patients 24/7 access to proper medical advice from the comfort of their own homes.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
A century ago, the only way to tell what was going wrong inside of someone’s chest, leg, arm, or head was to cut the area open and poke around a little. These types of operations, commonly referred to as “exploratory surgeries,” often meant excessive bleeding or harsh internal trauma for the patient, commonly resulting in death. If the patient survived the procedure, they were left with a large incision that was prone to infection, which could also be potentially fatal.
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, or MRI for short, changed all of that. Invented in 1977 by Dr. Raymond Damadian, MRI machines use powerful electromagnets to align the protons inside of the water cells in your body. Since the protons in different tissues of the body return to their normal positions at different speeds, the MRI machine can create an image of the internal tissues of the body, including bones, nerves, blood vessels, and organs. This non-invasive explorative tool helps doctors, oncologists, and researchers to study the internal anatomy of the body, detect any abnormalities, and plan the most effective treatment.
New versions of MRI equipment can perform tasks such as monitoring brain functions, tracking fluid absorption, or finding problems with digestion as it occurs. Researchers are also constantly discovering different pulse sequences to use in MRI equipment to more carefully evaluate the internal tissues of the body.
- Dental Implants
Although research has shown that ancient Mayan civilizations were experimenting with dental implants as early as 600 AD, it wasn’t until the last fifty years or so that the art and science of placing dental implants was honed into a plausible, aesthetically pleasing, safe procedure.
Dental implants function as a firmly anchored tooth replacement that is placed directly into the jawbone tissue. Because of the materials used and the way the implant is placed, it fuses with the jawbone and becomes a permanent fixture in the patient’s mouth.
Over time, diligent researchers have found new and innovative ways to improve dental implant materials and procedures. For example, newer posts used to support dental implants now have a roughened surface that mimics the texture of your natural jawbone. This rough surface makes it easier for jawbone tissue to fuse to the posts, creating a stronger and more stable implant. For more information about whether or not dental implants in Pittsburgh are right for you, contact your dentist or periodontist.
- Laser Eye Surgery
Nearsightedness and farsightedness have been making it hard for people to see since the dawn of human existence. But now, laser eye surgery can perfect the eye from the inside out.
LASIK systems, which stands for Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis, are tools designed to help eye surgeons to remove malformed portions of the cornea to perfect vision. During LASIK, the surface of the eye is numbed with anesthetic, then a small flap is cut in the surface of the corneal tissue. Next, the system takes very specific measurements of the inside of the eye to determine how to proceed. After the surgeon positions the laser to perform the surgery, the patient looks at a pinpoint of light while an excimer laser sculpts the cornea.
When the process is finished, the corneal flap is put back in place, and the surgeon contours the area so that the eye is comfortable. The entire procedure only takes about 2-5 minutes, but the results are permanent. Laser vision correction is such a powerful tool that its inventor, Dr. Josef Bille, stated in 2014 that in ten years blindness might be completely eradicated.
We live in a world with new technologies being discovered each and every day. For more information on the latest research and devices being used in your doctor or dentist’s office, make an appointment today.